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Crocodile hunt gets personal

Lever blamed the region's bright lights for driving the crocodile underwater.
Lever blamed the region's bright lights for driving the crocodile underwater.

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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Bowed, but not broken, an Australian crocodile hunter is leaving Hong Kong with his tail between his legs after failing in a week-long quest to catch his prey.

But the challenge is not over, hunter John Lever said after a week of attempts to haul in the elusive 1.4-meter reptile that has been roaming free in the murky swampland in Hong Kong's Yuen Long.

Rather, it had become "personal," Lever added.

Lever, who has captured hundreds of crocodiles in his career and runs a crocodile farm in Queensland, has rated the Hong Kong crocodile his toughest adversary yet.

He has vowed to return to the territory after a brief break in Bali, Indonesia.

The frustrated expert laid out a special baited trap on Wednesday but failed to bag the cheeky croc. Similar efforts on Thursday also came up empty.

Lever has blamed Yuen Long's bright residential lights and a massive media and spectator pack for driving the crocodile underwater.

The reptile was first spotted almost three weeks ago and is the first seen in the wild in Hong Kong for two decades. It is believed the croc is an escaped pet or a reptile that made a break for freedom from a crocodile farm in mainland China.

Lever runs the media guantlet in Yuen Long.
Lever runs the media guantlet in Yuen Long.

Lever was called in after the croc eluded attempts by government officials to catch it.

On one occasion, the hunter got close to catching his prey, but a harpoon he launched missed the animal.

Upon his arrival, Lever said he was ready to risk his reputation going after it.

"I shall be very embarrassed if I don't catch the croc," he said.

The showdown has played large in Hong Kong with both man and beast accorded celebrity status.

The croc hunt has also sparked a naming contest with Gucci -- after the fashion house that sells crocodile skin bags -- currently leading the way.

But plans are not to turn the croc into a fashion accessory. Instead, Gucci will be kept alive in a wildlife sanctuary -- if it is ever caught that is.

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